Article

Philosophy of Film

Katherine Thomson-Jones

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online July 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0071
Philosophy of Film

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For almost as long as there have been films, there have been philosophical theories about their art status, inherent realism, and distinctive aesthetic character. But philosophy of film did not become a unified field of study until the 1990s, the period in which analytic aesthetics generally began to pay more attention to the individual arts. Among the various philosophies of art, philosophy of film is distinguished by the degree to which it draws on a broader theoretical tradition. Many scholars in film studies are important contributors to philosophy of film. There is a particularly rich and productive collaboration between cognitive film theorists and philosophers on our engagement with films. In addition, some of the most influential views in the tradition of film theory influenced by psychoanalysis and semiotics have been subject to philosophical critique. It is important to note that philosophy of film is not the same thing as the increasingly popular practice of “doing philosophy” with film—using particular films to illustrate philosophical problems. There is some overlap, however, in interpretive work that also sheds light on distinctive features of the art form—for example, on how film narration works. There is also overlap in the growing subfield of film as philosophy: with the use of particular films as case studies, authors develop general accounts of the way film, as a distinctive artistic medium, can prompt and sustain philosophical reflection. Work in this subfield involves careful analysis both of the nature of philosophical activity and the nature of film as an art. Given the relative youth of the field, there is still plenty of work to be done in philosophy of film. The focus so far has been on narrative fiction film, and so more work is needed on nonfiction film—for example, documentary—as well as on experimental film. The main topics currently pursued in philosophy of film are described below, but with more work on different kinds of film, as well as on specific film genres and filmmaking traditions, new topics will undoubtedly emerge. Another important source of growth and development in the field is reflection on the significance of technological changes in filmmaking. Most notably, the ongoing shift from filmstrip-based to digital film has profound implications for our understanding of the art form. Philosophers have only just begun to explore these implications.

Article.  6210 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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